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USCIS Seeks to Unify Families Facing Separation through Revised Waiver Process

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601 Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

From Immigration Impact

Today, the administration took another important step toward fixing one of the most notorious problems with our broken immigration system—the 3 and 10 year bars. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it was filing a notice of intent to change a rule which would streamline the application process for many relatives of U.S. citizens currently eligible for permanent resident status, thereby minimizing the amount of time that applicants would have to be away from their families before being admitted into the United States.

Under current rules, thousands of people who qualify for legal status must leave the U.S. to obtain their permanent resident status, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering the U.S. for 3 or 10 years because of their unlawful presence in the United States. Many are eligible for a family unity waiver (which waives the bar to admission if extreme hardship to a spouse or parent can be established), but the way the law is currently implemented, the waiver can only be applied for from overseas That process can often take many months or even years, deterring otherwise eligible applicants from applying for legal status who instead remain unauthorized in the U.S. rather than risk separation from their families. (For more information on 3 and 10 year bar, see this fact sheet by the Immigration Policy Center.)

Under the proposed “in-country processing” rule change, spouses and children of U.S. citizens who apply for residence, but need a family unity waiver to re-enter the United States, will be allowed to apply for the waiver without leaving the U.S. The new rule seeks to help only spouses and children of U.S. citizens, not spouses and children of legal permanent residents, and does not alter or revise the eligibility standards for green cards or waivers. The proposed new rule would only affect persons whose sole need for a waiver is based on having lived in the U.S. without authorization (persons seeking a waiver on other humanitarian grounds must still leave the U.S.)

This “in-country processing” proposal means that USCIS could grant a provisional waiver here in the U.S, and many applicants would not face the same waiting period outside the country.  It is important to note that applicants would still be required to depart from the U.S. before receiving final approval and legal status.  But eligible immigrants will be encouraged to go through the process rather than remain unlawfully in the U.S.

Although the actual rule change will not go into effect for several months—a “notice of intent” to change the rules governing the adjudication of waivers for the 3 and 10 year bars was published in today’s Federal Register and will be followed by a call for comments and a comment period—the revision will make a huge difference in the lives of many U.S. families.

Applicants currently face long separations from their U.S. citizen family members as well as dangerous situations while they wait.  Many waivers are processed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city wracked with violence over the last several years.  This small step of allowing these family members to apply for and receive waivers inside the U.S. may save them from long, potentially dangerous separations from their families.

Some may argue that this rule change is an example of the president overstepping boundaries and bypassing Congress to reform the immigration system. These claims are wrong. While Congress writes the laws—including the 3 and 10 year bars—the executive branch decides how to execute the laws through rules and regulations which align with their priorities and current agency resources.  The waivers are currently processed overseas because of an administrative rule, and the current administration has every right to change that rule, just as all administrations before them.

The Obama administration is proposing a rule change that will partially ameliorate one of the most contradictory rules of immigration law, thereby encouraging legal immigration and helping to keep U.S. families together.


Proposed Rule Change Will Unify Families Subject to 3 and 10 Year Bars

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601 Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

From American Immigration Council

 
January 6, 2012 

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposal to streamline the application process for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens currently eligible for legal permanent resident status, minimizing the amount of time that applicants would have to be separated from their families.  Under current procedures, thousands of persons who qualify for legal status must leave the U.S. to obtain their permanent resident status, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering for 3 or 10 years if they have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days.  Many are eligible for a family unity waiver, but under current rules (not law), the waiver can only be applied for from overseas.  Because that process can often take many months and even years, it is believed that many otherwise eligible applicants do not apply for legal permanent resident status, remaining unauthorized in the U.S. rather than risk lengthy separation from their families.

Published in the Federal Register today, the proposal—or, at this point, a “notice of intent to issue a rule”— recognizes this Catch-22 by revising the procedures for determining the family unity waivers for spouses and children of U.S. citizens. However, the rule change will not cover spouses and children of legal permanent residents. Under this “in-country processing” proposal, which must still go through the formal rule-making process, spouses and children of U.S. citizens who apply for legal permanent residence and need a family unity waiver to re-enter the U.S. will be allowed to apply for the waiver without first leaving.  This process does not alter or revise eligibility standards and only affects persons whose sole need for a waiver is based on having been in the U.S. without authorization.

This “in-country processing” proposal would permit USCIS to grant a provisional waiver, eliminating the often prolonged wait that many applicants currently face when they seek a waiver outside the U.S.  Although applicants would still be required to depart from the U.S. before receiving final approval on their application, pre-processing of the family unity waiver will encourage applicants to come forward and create a faster and safer means for processing applications.

The emphasis on safety is particularly important, given the large number of applications processed in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city that has been wracked with violence in recent years.  Numerous cases of violence against persons waiting for their waivers have been reported, increasing the urgency of implementing the new rule quickly.  For other applicants, the streamlined process will minimize the time away from family members, reducing the possibility of economic and other hardships caused by long separations.

Our current immigration laws are riddled with inconsistent and conflicting provisions which have the absurd result of discouraging legal immigration.  Some of the most notorious are the bars to returning to the U.S. after a period of unlawful presence, even if a person has a legitimate relationship to a U.S. citizen.   Today’s announcement does not eliminate the bars, but it recognizes that there is no practical reason for forcing the spouses and children of U.S. citizens to wait outside the country for months or even years while their application for a waiver is pending.

According to Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, “By proposing new rules for processing waiver applications for spouses and children of U.S. citizens, USCIS has shown a commitment to addressing one of the most notorious implementation problems in our current immigration system.  Improving this system, within the framework of the law, is the legitimate role of any administration.  We commend USCIS for embarking on this rule change and its other attempts to bring efficiencies and fairness to the immigration system.”


DHS Announces Planned Changes to I-601 waiver for Unlawful Presence Waivers

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Consular Processing, I-601 Waivers, Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Leave a comment

The January 6, 2012, DHS Announcement about
Planned Changes to Processing for Unlawful Presence Waivers
Frequently Asked Questions
What was announced on January 6?

On January 6 DHS announced, in a notice to be
published in the Federal Register on January 9 that it will be issuing new regulations for
how unlawful presence waivers will be processed for certain immediate relatives who are
filing immigrant visa applications abroad. Specifically, the new procedure will allow
these individuals to file for a provisional unlawful presence waiver and await
adjudication while in the U.S. If approved, they will still have to depart the U.S. to
undergo visa processing and an interview at a U.S. consulate abroad. To receive a
provisional waiver, they will still need to show that a lengthy bar from the U.S. would
cause their U.S. citizen spouse or parent “extreme hardship.”
What is the current process and why is the change necessary?


Currently, many relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents face
unnecessary and dangerous bureaucratic hurdles when they apply for lawful permanent
residence (“green card”). In order to be granted permanent residence, these applicants
are required to travel to a U.S. consulate in their home country to be interviewed and wait
for the visa to be processed. But departure from the U.S. triggers a 3- or 10-year bar to
re-entry for many applicants—specifically those who have been unlawfully present in the
U.S. for more than 180 days.
Individuals subject to this re-entry bar may apply for a waiver (using DHS Form I-601;
see 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v)) so that they do not have to face years of separation from
their family. To qualify, they must demonstrate that their U.S citizen or permanent
resident spouse or parent would experience “extreme hardship” if the waiver is not
granted. But under the current process, the individual can only apply for the waiver in
the home country, after having had an initial interview at the consulate. The decision on
the waiver, which is made by USCIS even though the family member is abroad, often
takes weeks, months or even years to be completed. Meanwhile, families are separated,
and the spouses and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are forced to
endure potentially dangerous situations in the home country until the waiver is granted
and they can return to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.
Immigration law provides that U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for
“green cards” for their foreign-born spouses and children. But the lengthy delays and
risks in the current waiver procedure discourage many family members from completing
the process of legal immigration. Family members have been assaulted or killed while
waiting for waivers to be reviewed.
What will the new process be?


The new procedure will allow certain immediate relatives—spouses, children and parents
of adult of U.S. citizens—to apply for waivers of the unlawful presence bars while
remaining in the U.S. If the individual is found eligible, USCIS will grant a provisional
waiver. He or she will still have to depart the U.S. and visit a U.S. consulate abroad to
apply for an immigrant visa. During the immigrant visa interview, the consular officer
will make the finding of inadmissibility based on unlawful presence and apply the
provisional waiver. If other grounds of inadmissibility are found, the individual would
need to submit another waiver application, if eligible, while abroad. In many cases, the
provisional waiver will reduce the wait period abroad and the separation from the
applicant’s family by several months or years.
Individuals will still need to meet the extreme hardship standard established in existing
law to obtain a waiver. The January 6 notice states that USCIS does not intend to modify
the standard.
Who will be able to use the new process?
As announced in the January 6 notice, the new regulation will change the application
process only for immediate relatives whose U.S. citizen spouse or parent would suffer
extreme hardship if the bar is not waived.
Who is left out of the new process?
According to the January 6 notice, the new process will not apply to family members of
lawful permanent resident petitioners. It will also not include immediate relatives if their
qualifying relative for the hardship waiver is not a U.S. citizen spouse or parent. These
individuals will still need to apply under the existing procedure (departing the country
first and applying for the waiver while abroad). There is no valid reason not to apply the
same procedure to these individuals whose spouses and children face the same
bureaucratic delays, obstacles and dangers when required to wait abroad for their waiver
adjudications.
The new procedure will apply only to individuals who are subject to the 3- and 10-year
bars for unlawful presence. Individuals who are subject to other grounds of
inadmissibility are not affected under the new process and will still have to depart the
U.S. before applying for any waiver.
When will the new regulations and process be implemented?


The new provisional waiver procedure has not yet taken effect. The notice issued on
January 6 announces the government’s intent to issue a proposed regulation at a future
date. Next, DHS will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that will include a
proposed regulation governing the waiver process and will invite public comment. The
notice states that the new waiver process will not be implemented until a final rule is
issued and the change becomes effective.
What should current and prospective waiver applicants do at this time?
The January 6 announcement has not changed anything in the current waiver procedure.
The notice discourages the filing of applications for provisional waivers and states that
such requests will be rejected. The new procedure will not take effect until a final
regulation is issued.
Once the new procedure takes effect, individuals with pending applications for unlawful
presence waivers will not qualify under the new procedure.
What is the cost for applying for a waiver under the new procedure?


The January 6 announcement does not mention a change in the application fee for filing a
waiver application (Form I-601). The current fee is $585.
How will the new procedure improve government efficiency?

Under the current
procedure, waiver applications are filed by individuals who have departed the U.S. and
are applying at U.S. consulates abroad. However, those waiver applications are not
adjudicated by the U.S. consulate. Instead, they are forwarded to USCIS. Wait times for
processing waivers can be months or years. Processing these applications in the U.S. will
save government resources at the consulates and reduce the costs of shifting cases back
and forth between government agencies.


In GOP debate over national security, Gingrich defends long-term illegal residents

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

American policy toward Iran and the difficulty of America maintaining a robust foreign policy as its national debt is growing were issues that dominated the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night in Washington.

But in the debate’s final half hour, illegal immigration suddenly became the focus as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made an extended and vigorous defense of allowing illegal residents who’d settled in America for many years to stay and not be deported. Read more of the November 22, 2011 article

 

 

 

 


Immigrant workers, farmers fearful in wake of Alabama immigration law

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, State and Local Immigration Rules Leave a comment

Immigrant workers, farmers fearful in wake of Alabama immigration law

 

 

Alabama passed the severest immigration law in the US.  Basically, Americans don’t want to do the jobs that people without papers or status in the US are willing to do so a lot of farm work will not have enough labor to be completed and I can see food prices rising.  Illegal and legal immigrants are leaving Alabama in droves, I even have a client that has left Alabama.  We really need immigration reform. I understand why states are trying to put immigration in their own hands but really we need action from the Federal government.

 

Ruby L. Powers

US Immigration Attorney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Applying for Consular Processing and I-601 Waivers in Juarez, Mexico

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Comments Off on Applying for Consular Processing and I-601 Waivers in Juarez, Mexico

Applying for Consular Processing and I-601 Waivers in Juarez, Mexico Lawline CLE course


Recent developments in Defense of Marriage Act

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Immigration Trends, Legislative Reform Comments Off on Recent developments in Defense of Marriage Act

In Febuary 2011, President Obama declared that the Department of Justice would no longer be defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in certain Courts of Appeals. This radical stance change has had a profound effect on undocumented aliens and foreign nationals in the LGBT community. However, due to certain legal realities, the DoJ has had to continue with its defense of DOMA in certain parts of the country.

Prior to February 2011, the government had a very clear position on DOMA, namely that they would defend the law at all costs. They used several rationales to justify their defense of the law: Congress passed it and thus the DoJ must uphold the laws of the land; the president had instructed the executive branch (which the DoJ is a central part of) that they must continue to enforce it until DOMA is repealed; that marriage is about having children and that gay couples do not make good parents. Some arguments were stronger than others.

After February 2011 the DoJ’s position changed drastically. The DoJ effectively admitted that DOMA is unconstitutional by stating that “DOMA is not just an immigration issue; any law that targets people based on their sexual orientation is unconstitutional.” While this statement may suggest that the DoJ will be taking the same simple, clear-cut approach that they took in defending DOMA (but now in reverse) the reality is anything but simple.

The President’s statement of DOMA’s unconstitutionality does nothing to keep the DoJ from defending it in a Court of Appeals circuit. These nine circuits are grounded in federal law but each circuit sets its own precedents.  When it comes to the particular defense of DOMA, the DoJ has used “Rational Basis” to defend it. Thus, if a circuit allows “Rational Basis” to be used in the defense of DOMA, then the DoJ must defend the law in those courts. If the circuit has set no precedent, or has stated that Rational Basis may not be used to defend the law, then the DoJ is not obligated to defend it.

Rational basis review is the most deferential standard of review that federal courts use to evaluate the constitutionality of legislation when challenged on due process or equal protection grounds; however, just because a law discriminates does not mean that certain “discrimination” is unconstitutional. For example, US lawful permanent residents are not allowed to vote-a clearly discriminatory law that has never been challenged as unconstitutional (although it should; permanent residents pay taxes like everyone else and should have a right to elect their officials).

This lack of accord among the CA circuits has not only put the DoJ and the DHS in the unenviable position of having to, in some circuits, defend a law that has been declared unconstitutional, but has also made life for undocumented LGBT aliens and LGBT foreign nationals in valid status that much more complicated.  However, the DHS does have one thing working for them in the form of Prosecutorial Discretion. Prosecutorial Discretion allows the DHS to decline to detain and deport an alien that it decides is not a dangerous threat to the United States. The DHS has made clear that its enforcement priorities are national security, public safety, border security and repeat immigration law violators. Since foreign nationals in same same-sex couples rarely fall into any of those categories, they may qualify for prosecutorial discretion.

As it stands, the DoJ does not seem too eager to prosecute same-sex couples, but it is bound by law to continue to enforce DOMA. Until DOMA is repealed or deemed unconstitutional, or there is a change in executive policy, this situation will continue as is.


Bill Would Give U.S. Visas to Foreign Home Buyers

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law, Legislative Reform Comments Off on Bill Would Give U.S. Visas to Foreign Home Buyers

The reeling housing market has come to this: To shore it up, two Senators are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill Thursday that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S. more


Texans for Immigration Reform Monthly Meeting

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

2nd Saturday (10m-12:30pm) or Thursday (7-9pm) each month at Tracy Gee Community Center, Houston, TX. Ongoing events from the group, American Border Patrol as seen in “Border Invasion Pics.” There are several home videos taken on the US/Mexico border. According to the website, “All activity shown… is a result of citizen volunteer effort. Detection is by citizen, and where apprehension takes place it is by citizen guidance of Border Patrol agents. More and more citizens are doing a job our government won’t do.”


Immigrants fearing deportation make plans for kids

Posted on by Ruby Powers in Immigration Law Leave a comment

They’re signing documents allowing others to care for their children if needed, assistance groups say


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